Saturday, 28 May 2016

[Poker] Re-Introduction +The Next 15 Months + June 2016 Goals

Oh, it feels good to be back. Strap yourselves in folks, this could be a long one.

So, as some of you may be aware, I started this blog a few months ago, when I first discovered PLO. I took a break from the blog (and poker altogether), as I said I wouldn't play a hand of PLO throughout uni exams. Well, my last exam was a couple of days ago, and since then I've been playing a fair bit trying to warm up my PLO muscles. I've played about 2k hands over PLO2Z/PLO5Z, decent winner but sample is so small and so much of that game time was me just trying to adapt to playing 4 zoom tables again that there's really nothing to take from the data. However, I can never complain about winning.

I have a couple of things I want to discuss before I come into my goals for poker, mainly about the old format of the blog.

I hate the majority of what I wrote. its rather dramatic, messy and very depictive of someone who wasn't in the best place in their head, which granted I wasn't at the time. The hand review sections are often sloppy, inefficient and at times very inaccurate. Some of the updates I provided, such as me playing 500 hands and claiming I was a winning player at a stake, really demonstrates a lack of understanding. of PLO. However, I see this as a really positive thing. I want to develop in poker. I want to push myself consistently further. So, the idea that I can look back on things I did a few months ago and think "wow, that is terrible" just proves to myself that I am progressing. If I'm looking back on things I did six months ago and see no flaws whatsoever, I'm either perfect or stagnated, and I'm not really a big believer in perfection. 

I'm in a far better place than I was when I started this. If you have read my first post, you'll know I wasn't particularly happy with the state of my life. At this moment in time, I couldn't be happier. I really hope to reflect that through my posts.

The structure of my poker will change with my attitude to it. One of the main issues I have with my old methodology of poker development was my studying, or lack thereof. I always aimed to study more and play less, and it never quite worked out like that - which at the time made sense, as poker was something solely for enjoyment in breaks from university. Right now I'm going to treat this like an apprenticeship, in the sense that I'm not doing it for the money, I'm doing it for the experience, to develop myself into something more in the field I want to go into. If I want to effectively develop, I'm going to need to study more. This will come in lots of different forms that I'll discuss later.

The blog may be quite sporadic. I work a zero hour contract and apply for shifts. I'm aiming to average around 25 hours a week working, as this is enough to sustain myself, but some weeks I'll get 0, so the weeks I get offered 50, I'll take it. Most free time is going to go to poker but I don't want to have any financial strains placed on poker at the minute, as I'd rather be relaxed while learning, and I'd also initially want to keep everything I make as a bankroll addition.

Okay, so, now with that out the way, I want to discuss what I want to achieve in poker over the next 15 months (until university starts again for me). There is only one goal - do everything I can to reach a point, where come September 2017, it is viable for me to consider switching to PLO full time. Now, I want to stress, I do not mean that I want to be a professional by this point. I mean I want to have the fundamental skills, technical and mental, along with the bankroll (which I plan on building), to safely and consistently make enough money in poker to survive. How will I achieve this? Through a shit tonne of hard work, constant self-examination through monthly goals and a very study heavy schedule. With that being said;

June 2016 Goals

1) Regain Confidence Multitabling - Considering I haven't played regularly in about six weeks or so, I've lost a lot of my muscle-memory decision making, so I find myself slightly panicked/rushed when multitabling and often leads to mistakes from things such as not checking opponent HUD. I've begun to regain the confidence to make correct decisions quickly, but I would like to cement it, and go back to having 4 Zoom tables be my standard
2) Study the PLOQuickPro Manual in depth - I've already read it once and I have to say it was hugely influential in my game, but I feel like I skimmed past concepts I didn't fully understand and I've probably forgotten a lot of the material. I will study each chapter in depth, make notes, and make sure I fully understand every concept before moving on to the next.
3) The same as above, but for The Mental Game of Poker. The mental side of the game is something I've found myself improving on a lot just by changing my attitude towards the game (and focusing on my yellow line and not my green!), but again I want to make sure I fully understand every concept.
4) Develop a routine that works for me - I've had some issues knowing things like when to play, how long for, how long to take breaks etc. I'll experiment and see what conditions I perform best under. I will also schedule that for every hour I play, I study for an hour.
5) Take breaks - I've never really taken a day off poker whilst playing poker. I believe this is unhealthy and may lead to burning out so I'm going to try and take a day off at least once a fortnight. I imagine this will come fairly naturally when I have late shifts etc.
6) Utilise free time, don't be lazy - Again, I have no idea how much free time I'm going to have, so I'm not setting anything with time limits - instead, I want to make sure that when I have the free time to play or study, I'm doing it.
7) Don't go broke.

That's it for now, I think. I really can't wait to get back into this. Going to go watch the final and then start studying PLOQuickPro.

Hopefully see you next time!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

[Poker] Goodbye For Now

Hi guys. This is a pretty sad day for me, as I realised it really is for the best that I put poker on a backburner for a month or so. While university is not my main life plan at the minute, I've spent the majority of the last few years of my life aiming towards it, and to come out of all of that with absolutely nothing to show for it, and no backup plan other than PLO, would be a terrible situation to find myself in. So, sadly, I won't be playing, studying or writing about any PLO for the next month. My goals for this month in poker will be reconsidered going into June when I can come back to this and properly focus. Until then, mathematics will take the wheel. My next (poker related) post will come the day after my last exam most likely, when I can properly submerse myself into 30 hour grinding weeks. I cannot wait.

Hopefully see you next time! (Provided you remember I exist)


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

[Poker] F***ing Up Upwards In Stakes (My first PLO5Z stab)

So, in my procrastination routine of today, I decided it was time to clear up my laptop. It's an old laptop, with loads of software that I'll never use again, along with a lot of stuff I've never even heard of (hand-me-down hype), and recently its been even more depressingly slow than usual, especially PokerTracker (which is ironic for reasons I'll explain). So, I opened up the control panel, and started uninstalling everything I didn't want or looked as if it was something my dad had previously used for work. 
This is where I came to the SQL section, I knew my dad had done loads of work in SQL for his last job, and there was a lot of software left over from that. I went trigger happy and decided to delete it all. Little did I realise that within the mound of SQL software, there was postgreSQL, which is the database software PokerTracker uses. Long story short, after lots of talking to support and moaning to anyone who would listen, I realised I'd just deleted my whole database. About 40,000 hands, gone. All of the hands I'd tagged to write blog posts on, gone. All of the hands I was going to do the sweat review session with, gone. I was devastated. How was I supposed to know if I should try and steal now? How do I know if they're 3betting me light or just with AAxx? My months of grinding the PLO2Z pool and building up reads felt pointless.
Eventually, I managed to reinstall postgreSQL and got PT working, on a new database. Luckily the majority of my settings/HUD were all kept, I'd just lost all of my hands. I decided to play a bit to start rebuilding my hand pool.
While playing, I realised something. I was playing against a pool I had no reads on. I realised this felt a lot like how it would feel to move up stakes. I was rebuilding a database for a stake I really didn't want to be spending much longer in. I'm not sure if it was a bit of tilt that made me think this, but I didn't want to rebuild to just have to rebuild again. I was over-rolled for PLO2. I felt good about my game. I decided it was time to stab at PLO5.
Nowadays, I usually play 4 tables of PLO2Z. That is due to being comfortable at the stake - I have detailed notes and lots of hands on the majority of the players there. Decisions are made considerably easier so I need less time to make them. I am also comfortable with general bet sizing and player tendencies. I am not in PLO5. For this reason, I decided my first stab would just be playing 1 table of Zoom. 
I played well, I ran hot. Obviously this is a tiny sample size and is just about an hour of playing one table of Zoom, but I'm still happy with the result. Only having one table to think about meant it felt like I had an eternity to make every decision, which really helped make me feel more comfortable at the stake. It was also weirdly nice to see a lot of the people who I saw a lot of at PLO2 who suddenly disappeared (I guess I know where they went), almost like seeing an old friend, who used to take all your money when you didn't know anything about PLO. Okay, maybe not the most relatable metaphor, but you get my point. I drew a couple of conclusions from my first PLO5 session:

1) People fold their blinds like 90% of the time to a button open.
2) People aren't that much better than in PLO2. At times, it almost felt as if they were worse in PLO5.
3) The small blind not being half of the big blind makes people fold way more in BvB situations. 

I'm going to play a lot more hands and see if this turns out to be true. I'm really not well rolled for PLO5Z at all, I have about 20BI in my roll. If I lose 10 of them, I'll take a few days, review every hand, think about all my alternatives, do some sweat review sessions (which I'm still yet to explain what that is, I'll get around to it) and if I think I'm ready to go again, consider firing another student loan barrel. Hopefully it won't come down to that and I can go on enough of an upswing to keep me decently rolled. 
Since signing up for RI1, I feel considerably more confident in my game. I've watched a lot of training videos, and read every PLO thread posted in the past month or so. Maybe losing my whole database and every note I've ever made was actually a good thing for me.

Hopefully see you next time!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

[Poker] Hand #5 - Overcomplicating Things

Hey guys, I played this hand today and I've been thinking about it for a while now. The equities in the situation run really close vs his potential ranges, and we have absolutely no reads on the player, so we have to make lots of assumptions. To show the hand, I'll be doing it in the normal style, but I've switched the PT theme to a Full Tilt theme, which I personally think looks beautiful but I'd love opinions on. I could see it being a bit heavy on the eyes after a while.

We're in the small blind vs a completely unknown player UTG, who limps. I have no reads on the player, but there are only two situations I ever really see this done at these stakes. The first being they have aces trying to play a 3bet pot, and the other being they're a weaker player. I block aces, so from the start I assume they're a weaker player. I obviously pot it from the small blind, very standard in my opinion with a hand this strong.

The flop is 869 rainbow, so we flop middle set on a straightened board. Normally I would go for a check call with this hand on this board texture, in order to keep bluffs in his range and maybe hit a boat and stack off a flopped straight, but my assumption of him being a weaker player means I don't think he's going to be bluffing at this board a lot, and will probably be calling quite light. He ends up potting it, which puts me in a weird spot. I thought this was a straight a fair bit of the time, which I have equity against, and I also thought he could be doing this with any overpair or set, especially if he's a weaker player. This is my reasoning for deciding to shove, which in hindsight I think is the worst of my three options. I definitely think flat-calling is the answer here, we keep in weaker hands, we give ourselves a chance to realise equity and stack off a straight, and we allow ourselves the chance to make another decision as oppose to just leave it upto percentage.
I actually did a lot of work using PokerJuice on this hand, and posted it around on forums, really trying to work out if I have an edge against his various ranges here depending on player type. The solution to that was that it's quite close and it really depends what his range is. If he's doing this with overpairs, I'm very ahead, if he isn't, I'm decently behind. However, I definitely think we could exercise pot control here, try and hit our card, and let them barrel with their straight or bluff.
This hand made me realise that I've been playing the style of PLO that I see when I sweat the 25/50 Zoom games that run occasionally, which involve a lot more stacking off on flops. I recently heard this referred to as "suicide poker", which I didn't really understand until now. At those stakes, it makes sense - players are bluffing often and bluffing large, and rake isn't as much of a consideration. At these stakes, I can play a bit more exploitably profitably, and the tiny equity edges I'm squeezing are run over by the rake.
I definitely think I've improved more this week than I have in a good while. The RI1 community and videos are helping my game so much, I really think its making a big difference. I've also thought of another studying method which works out well too, which I'm keen to share. I'll do a live runthrough of it as my next post most likely, or a hand where I checked back a boat on the river. One of the two.

Hopefully see you next time!

Friday, 15 April 2016

[Poker] Hand #4 - Bad Beat

There is literally no analysis in this hand (except maybe preflop), this hand just hurt a lot and I figured someone may as well get some enjoyment from the hand (apart from the fucker who just scooped my 180 odd BB). 

We have AAJ2 single suited in the cutoff, facing two limpers. We're very deep, we won't be able to get enough of our stack in preflop, raising won't isolate a single player that often, and we have a hand that can do quite well in high spr multiway spots, so I just limped. We end up 5 handed on the flop.

The flop is TT8 twotone and it checks to us. The chance of us firing a bet and taking it down here is tiny. I just check behind, hoping to hit a 2 outer. Not a lot to say.

We hit absolute gin on the turn, hitting the nut boat on a 3 flush board. We see a bet, a fold and a call. I see no point in raising, I'm unlikely getting huge value from nut flush here unless I let him keep barrelling, and if I am overboating someone the money is probably just going in. Easy flat in position.

The river bricks out (not that there are many cards that change the hand). The guy to my left bets pot, I put in a small raise, and he reraises. I'm singing hallelujah. I cannot wait for him to turn over the king high flush or AT or 88 as I put the money in. Finally, a big enough pot to help upswing my downswing, and cut my losses for the day in half. I pretend to think for a while and shoved. He calls so fast I laughed to myself. He beat me into the virtual pot. I already knew. Nobody calls a river 4bet that quick unless they just have it. I didn't even have to look. 

He flopped quads. What can I say? Thank fuck I only play microstakes.

[Life] Feeling Like a Grown-Up

It's funny how at the exact time poker completely flipped (I'm on a horrid downswing, still up for the month but not as glamorous as it was before), I had some brilliant moments in real life, to the extent the downswing (almost) isn't bothering me at all.

I found a flat - I'm moving in with my girlfriend next month. It's even more central into London than I currently am, the rent is significantly lower, the building/rooms are nicer, the onsite features are better (a gym is included in the rent), and I'm making a major commitment, which I couldn't be more excited about. I just cannot wait to move there, start my new life and finally be able to treat PLO like a part time job, which brings me to my next point;

I got a job - Mathematics tutor. Something I've had a lot of experience doing in the past, I can finally get back to it now I've moved away from home. The flexible hours is fantastic with grinding, and I love the work so its something I won't resent spending my grinding time doing like I have been with uni work, which brings me to my next point;

I just can't fucking revise - Procrastination has never been more of an issue. From grinding when I'm not scheduled to, to watching PLO training videos, to replying to literally every hand question on the PLO forum on RI1 (which I really don't think I'm qualified to do), to watching SNL's entire backlog of clips on youtube, I'm just doing literally everything I can to avoid writing a number down. Plus, the weirdest thing is, is I have procrastination guilt when I actually am revising, for not studying PLO. I guess my subconscious is telling me I'm making the right choice there. This has always been a problem with me, and I've always managed to do it all in the last minute and scrape what I need, but I'm going to try and avoid this. Key word try.

I signed up for RunItOnce Essential - I was scraping the internet for any PLO training videos that I didn't have to pay for, and realised that it was taking so much time and most of the time the videos were in shit quality and I couldn't tell what was going on. Eventually, while just posting HH on RI1, I had a look at their video packages, and saw how cheap the essential package is. $10 a month is a fantastic investment given the quality of the videos. Once poker becomes more of a priority again, I will definitely add training videos into daily grinding schedules.

So, I'm moving in with my girlfriend, I've got a job, I have a life plan. I've never felt so grown up in my life, and it's scary as fuck, but also so motivating. I'm actively excited about the idea of spending hours and hours studying my mental game, PLO theory, GTO play, posting on forums, grinding my ass off, really immersing myself into it. Over this next month or so I'm going to have to begrudgingly cut poker off a little bit, so the writing is going to slow down, but hopefully I'll find time to still be active on forums and get the occasional grind in alongside my study. (Who am I kidding, I'll grind every day, I just love it too much, even when I'm massively below EV)

Hopefully see you next time!

Friday, 8 April 2016

[Poker] Big Progress

This has been a very solid month for me so far. I made myself a timetable for the month, scheduling set amounts of university work each day, with another set amount of poker study. The timetable was fairly intense so I didn't think I'd have any free time to play, apart from the two scheduled hours a week (I'd go insane otherwise). However, I've been surprisingly efficient in both university and poker study, leaving me with usually about 2 hours a day to play, which I took as something I could use as a learning experience, considering its study month. I wanted to study something a bit more practical about the game, namely my preferences between cash and zoom. I came to that conclusion fairly quickly (I wrote about it in my last post if you're curious, spoiler, I chose zoom), and from there I wanted to develop the practical side of my game further. 

I realised I'd never experimented with any other form of table placing than tiled, and during messing about with cash tables I realised on my small laptop screen this would be nearly impossible to do. It was during this I started to cascade my tables. This certainly worked better, but I found after a few hours my wrist started to hurt quite a bit, so I decided to order an ergonomic vertical mouse, and as it was being delivered I temporarily switched to tiling tables.

I'm not sure why I hadn't considered tiling the tables as an option originally, but as soon as I switched I immediately felt the benefit. The tables were large, my HUD was clear, there was almost no movement of my wrist and I felt hardly any pain, I could add as many tables as I wanted, even playing odd numbers without it looking strange on the screen (a pet hate of mine), and I adapted very quickly to keeping track of the action. I was quite regretting ordering the mouse as I felt I no longer needed it, however I quickly took that back once it arrived - the Anker Vertical Ergonomic mouse is the most comfortable mouse I've ever used, but more about that in another post. 

Once I came to the conclusion of Zoom, I went back to tiling two tables, but found myself having a problem I'd had tiling two Zoom tables in the past - I focused more on one than the other. I also began to find the action quite slow, and felt I was spending a lot of the time waiting to be able to fold my big blind. I was never using my time bank and felt no pressure at all while playing. I came to the conclusion I was ready to add a third table, but tiling it made the others horribly small and I was moving the mouse around so much my wrist began to hurt again. So, I went back to stacking, and with only ever thinking about one table at a time and not wasting precious seconds moving from one table to the other, I played the best PLO of my life. To make my actions even quicker, I added fold and check as hotkeys, so I was using both hands to play. After about 3 hours playing like this, I added a fourth table. It felt natural within half an hour. I was now playing twice the amount of hands per hour I was just two days ago, which I think is quite nicely accelerating my learning process, and also helping to reduce the effects of variance, which is something I've definitely felt. 

This wasn't the only thing I did to improve the consistency of my game. I also began to structure my warmup process a lot more, as I was noticing a definite pattern in that I did a lot better when the first poker related thing I did that day wasn't playing. Before I play each session, I go through every VPIP+WTSD hand of the previous session, and both review my own play and make notes on my opponents in PT. I also make sure I'm well rested and I've had a good meal before playing, and I have nothing particularly stressful that I have to do after the session (for example university work). The extra tables, combined with the tiling structure, the reviews, warmups and study of PLOQuickPro and The Mental Game of Poker, my results have been positive; 

I'm playing well and running like God. 5k hands is obviously a tiny sample, but a 40BB/100 winrate pre-rakeback I think is something I can be proud of even with this size. Even if I was running exactly EV in my SD winnings, I'd be in a healthy profit. Also, this is the first month where my NSD winnings have been negative, which I think comes from adjustments I've made from studying/reviewing, where I realised I was losing a lot of money bluffing calling stations, especially blocker bluffing. I've calmed down bluffing, especially OOP, I'm more selective preflop now I'm seeing more hands (my VPIP has dropped from 31 to 25 from the previous month), and I'm playing my big draws a lot more aggressively than I was before to maximise fold equity. I have also adjusted quite a bit with how I play AAxx and KKxx, before this month I just did everything I could to pile the money in, but now I'm mixing it up with these hands and taking what I think is the most profitable line in the spot, given the opponents in the pot and the stack sizes. Tiling the tables is allowing me to do this a lot more, as I'm only looking at one table, and I feel I've practiced well at taking in all of this information quite quickly.

The point to all of this is that I think I've defined the structure of how I'm going to play PLO from now on, which means I can focus just on the games and studying while knowing I'm doing it all in the most efficient way for me. I'm also going to slightly edit the way I move up stakes, as previously I was employing a 50+10 system, with 10BI for the next stake as a stab. I'm going to change this to 40+4 for now. I think 40BI is plenty, and 4BI playing 4 tables is obviously quite tight, but I feel like I could beat the stake, and while still in the 4BI realm I would be playing very tight, using it as a learning experience of the stake. I would also only move up in a spot where I'm feeling confident in my game and am well warmed up, probably though playing PLO2Z for an hour or so prior. Exciting stuff. 

So, that's it for me. Next time will either be me discussing my first time playing PLO5Z, or another hand review if anything interesting pops up. Unfortunately, most of my hands have been quite standard recently.

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

Monday, 4 April 2016

[Poker] Zoom vs Cash

Hey guys, just wanted to discuss this issue a bit. It's something I've been debating with myself for a while, and I think I've finally come to a conclusion about what's best for me, after chopping and changing for the past six weeks or so. Naturally, my sample size isn't massive enough to properly decide which is better for me in terms of results, but I have thought about it theoretically. I want to discuss both of them with both pros and cons and come to my conclusion.

Pros for Zoom - There are quite a lot of pros of Zoom. The first one is ease - it is very easy to sit at a table or four and start straight away without having to wait in any queues or join partially full tables. This leads me to my second pro - which for me is massive - when there is a decent pool size, you always play six handed. I really struggle adapting my game to shorter handed PLO and feel I play far too tight and straightforward. The third pro is that opponents will struggle to develop reads on you (of course this is a double-edged sword) and you can repeat exploitable plays without expecting to be exploited as much. Lastly, there is a certain consistency to Zoom. If I play 12 hands of normal tables compared to 4 Zoom tables, I'll see roughly the same number of hands per hour, but with Zoom I know I will always be playing 4 hands, whereas with normal tables, sometimes I'll be seeing 10 flops at once, and sometimes I'll be sitting on my arse.

Pros for Cash - The main one that everyone seems to be so keen on is table selecting. With Zoom, you sit where you're sat, and you can't control the opponents you're up against as much, whereas in normal cash tables you can take your time and choose the most profitable spots. The other major argument is that Zoom is very fish-friendly, in the sense that it allows impatient people just playing one table for fun to be selective about their hands preflop.

As you may have guessed by the relative size of the paragraphs, I've chosen to focus my efforts on Zoom. I truly think fast-fold poker is the way the game is going to go in the future with the player pool growing (and potentially growing much more as it becomes legal in more states across the US) and thus becoming more fishy. Zoom is a fish magnet for not only its fun, easy demeanor but also because its so much harder for regs to seek out the fish and exploit their weaknesses. While it is definitely more difficult, from playing 4 tables for significant hours with a group of fish in the pool, you build up a set of HUD stats on them, which can be a glancing way to identify fish fairly easily. Also, to compensate for the difficulty of note taking, I just make notes on players in hand review sessions through PT. This is much better for me as I can be more thorough and I'm not just frantically typing "4b KKxx xb wet boardjfnsdjfn" before the next table appears.  It is also something I doubt a lot of the "regs" at my current stakes do - I see the same people pretty much every day and over a few hundred hands on them they're usually significantly losing players who play the same style of game every hand because they don't think anyone is paying attention. The volume of these players will only increase across all of the stakes as both PLO and online poker in general grows. These past 4 days I've been very committed in going through every hand I play and making concise profitable notes on my hands and reading them before getting involved with an opponent, and playing 3 tables of PLO2Z stacked I've had this as my result; 

I do honestly feel a lot of the success I've had these past 4 days comes from my reads. I've been massively adapting my game to my opponents, calling a lot wider when appropriate and folding a lot tighter when appropriate. To anyone with any poker experience (or sense) this seems like a very obvious thing to do, but I think its even more important in Zoom, simply because nobody else is doing it at these stakes. If your opponents aren't at all adapting to you, you can adapt to your opponents completely, as they have no apparent variance in style. Of course, this isn't at all true for the higher stakes regs, but I'm not there yet, and I'm sure I'll come back with another discussion when I am. 

So, if we can identify the fish when we come across them, of which there are a higher amount per head than in normal tables in my experience, we may lose our preflop equity edge on them, but we keep our postflop edge. Considering equities run close preflop in PLO, we will never be absolutely crushing our opponent pre, and even if he is being very nitty, if you offered me the situation to play IP vs a nitty fish with a 45/55 preflop equity disadvantage with a solid set of notes/stats, I'd take it every time. This is a position I've found myself in a lot, playing in position with a smooth distribution hand against someone who cbets every flop and gives up on almost every turn, profiting from well timed floats. This is an especially advantageous spot for us, as if we were on a normal cash table, he may have the chance to adapt to us floating him on every flop, but as its Zoom, the chances of him recognising us and remembering this is much less, and if he is, we've probably mislabeled him as a fish. 

To summarise, I prefer Zoom, not only for the pros listed earlier, but also because of the reasons most people seem to dislike it. It is also definitely worth mentioning that because most of the better players prefer normal cash, this reduces the average player ability in the Zoom pool, thus increasing overall edge. 

Sorry for the longer post, I just felt this needed discussing considering deciding which I preferred was one of my goals. 

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

Friday, 1 April 2016

[Poker] Hand #3 - Mindset Comparisons

Hey guys. I've been going through last month's hand history and I found one hand that I would play very differently now. I think it's quite interesting to discuss improvements within my game in a bit more depth, by talking about my old logic in this spot and how it compares to my new logic. This hand comes from a PLO2 table, against a maniac and a quite passive player, who seem to switch roles partway through the hand, leading to an interesting dynamic.
UTG raised full pot. He was playing a 70/40 with little positional awareness, so I decided to 3bet to isolate the weak player in position. The small blind flat calls - my reads on him from his stats are that he seems quite loose passive, playing 60/0, however this is only over a 20 hand period so it isn't set in stone. The way I played this hand made me think I wasn't paying a huge amount of attention to this, or I just struggled with how to adjust to it. UTG calls, and we go 3 ways to the flop.
The flop is a good one for me. I flop top pair, a gutshot, the second nut flush draw and a backdoor nut flush draw, with an effective SPR of about 3. My perceived range also hits this board very well, as I hadn't been 3 betting very much so it probably looked like aces. The loose passive player donks, and the maniac folds. I'd not seen either of these happen before on the flop, so I assume it threw me off a bit. I think my logic of flat calling the donk was that I had a good draw and I didn't want to scare away action. However, in hindsight, the small blind had been very passive on every flop so far, and for him to donk into a board which hits my perceived range so well is bizarre. I have two theories, the first being that he's not paying attention to how often I'm 3betting and trying to blow me off a hand. This seems quite uncharacteristic. The second theory is that he's flopped something and wants to go with it. This makes no sense as my perceived range flopped the nuts here, so he mustn't really be paying that much attention. A set makes sense trying to protect from a flush draw or wrap, however its very unlikely he has AAxx as there's only two aces left. I have outs against all of those combinations with my flush draw + gutter, and if I raise the flop I have a good fold equity as I'm repping aces well at every point. He could also have a flush draw or wrap himself, which is uncharacteristic for him to donk, however unless he specifically has the king high flush draw, I'm crushing it and even if he does I'm holding outs, and I have top pair so I'm ahead. I also block a lot of wrap outs with my QJ. So, unless he very specifically has a set or two pair plus a king high flush draw, my equity isn't terrible, and with all of those hands I have fold equity if I raise here from my aces repping. I think the answer here is to raise full pot and commit myself, giving myself a good chance to take down the pot there and then without having to hit my draw, and also often having good equity if they call. There is an argument for flatting to keep bluffs in his range, but I don't think I can do that when my hand is mostly drawing and I may end up just having to fold to a few barrels anyway. Plus, it keeps in his entire range, making decisions on later streets much more awkward. Even if he is bluffing, aggression on almost any turn card will get rid of him so I don't make any more money from the hand. However, I flatted, and here we go.
The turn completes my flush, and the small blind checks to me. I think he's giving up with most bluffs here as it'd be hard to get a set of aces to fold here against your average PLO2 player, so bluffs are in his range. I also think he may consider check calling for pot control with a set, or consider check shoving with a flush. I elect to check back here, thinking I was being trapped. Now, I would be betting small here, about 20-25BB. I'm definitely getting called by worse with this bet as it looks quite weak, and worse is also check jamming, for example weaker flushes trying to get it in against a set of aces, or a set semibluffing the flush. I don't really think he has the king high flush here a lot, especially with the line he took on the flop given he's so passive, I think we'd see a check call on the flop most of the time. Plus, there just aren't that many clubs left in the deck, so it's less likely than the other options. I think he definitely has the king high flush here sometimes, but the SPR is about 1 and he definitely gets it in here with worse more often than he does better. I should be betting, but I didn't, and we see a puke river. 
The board pairs on the river, and he bets near full pot, committing himself. Considering I thought he had two pair or a set on the flop, most of the time he's just made a boat or quads. I folded, which I don't particularly mind, because the way I played the hand on earlier streets set this up to be a difficult decision. However, I need to be good 33% of the time to make this call. I left bluffs in his range by not betting the turn, and he still has weaker flushes, with now added fold equity from the scare card and from the fact my check back on the turn looks so weak when the flush completes. I think he bets the river a lot simply because of that without paying a huge amount of attention to what the river card is. In my mind his range is fairly split between flushes and flopped two pairs. Most of the flopped two pairs just boated, considering I block an ace. Am I good here 33% of the time? I think it's impossible to say considering we don't know enough about the player to know how often he's doing this with bluffs - this is the first river he's seen with us at the table. So, to make a proper decision, we have to resort to raw equity. 

I gave the villain a 15% RFI  range preflop. This may seem questionable, but he was being very loose pre without a lot of positional awareness. 12% may be more appropriate, but it doesn't change the numbers very much. On the flop, we give him a flush draw and 2 pair plus, which makes sense in my opinion with his street actions. We are 68% in his range, so if this range is accurate and if he is never ever bluffing, we are profitable calling off. We may have to narrow down his range to stronger flush draws than just any of them, but I think the times he's pouncing on the weakness shown by our turn bet compensates for this. In hindsight, I like calling.

So - what message can I take from this? The main one is not to be thrown by something I don't expect. Consider why villain may be doing this, consider why I wasn't expecting it in the first place and how it contradicts the reads, and help to use all of this to define a range, and go from there.Another message is quite a big morale booster - as you may have read, March wasn't my best month, but this hand was exactly a month ago today, and from writing this analysis I feel as though I definitely am improving. Even if I am wrong with some of the stuff I've said here (which I'm sure I am) I'm certainly thinking on more levels than I was a month ago. I probably had the longest HH review session of my life today, about 2 and a half hours, and I caught myself making a lot of stupid errors. The plan is to continue to review in large volume over this month, and try and take one interesting spot from each review and write about it. 

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

Thursday, 31 March 2016

[Poker] Goals for April 2016

After the negativity of writing the last one, I'm looking forward to this. I'm going to adjust the format of this, mostly just to make it a bit easier on myself, but also to add an element of focus. Last month I wanted to do quite a lot in every branch of my game, which I think was a big factor in me failing at every branch. I think from now on I'll focus in on one large broad goal, and have some other less important side goals. Before I discuss my goals for April, it's important to mention that I have a month off to study for my exams in May, so that'll be what takes up most of my time for the next 2 months. My goals this month will reflect that.

1) Studying - As this is going to be a mostly studying month, I'll treat poker the same way. I will massively skew my time this month towards post session review and off-table studying to compensate for last month. This will involve two things primarily, I will finish reading PLOQuickPro, and make myself a set of notes on the important concepts. I will also go through and review every single VPP hand from last month, of which there are about 3000. This is about 100 hands a day (maths degree finally paying off), and I imagine the majority are steal and cbet or defend and miss OOP, so most will be fairly quick to review so this won't take me long. I want to use this to identify patterns in my own game to pinpoint the issues I faced. If I manage to finish both of these, I'll start using my studying time by watching PLO videos, or by reading another book.

2) Mental Game - I have a suspicion a lot of the reason I went on such a bad downswing was because of tilt. I began to read TMGOP, and I reached the point where all of the tilt concepts were explained, but I hadn't read anything about how to deal with them. I will read both of his books this month. I am quite a fast reader, and in total this is about 400 pages left, so I think it is very doable. This seems to important to ignore as a couple of times this month (including my final session a couple of hours ago) I felt tilted, actively identified that I was on tilt, debated making a hero call with two pair on a wet board, realised that I was never good here and I was only considering calling because I was on tilt. And then I called. This is just ridiculous and evidently I need to stop.

3) Actual Poker - I'm not setting a goal for profits or EV this month. However I am considering making one big change - switching to normal PLO tables from ZOOM. This is made a bit more difficult with the shitty laptop, but I am going to invest in a monitor to connect to the laptop and be able to play more tables comfortably that way. I also want to decide how I want to multitable through experimenting between tiling, stacking and cascading. I am determined to prioritise the other goals this month and not just spend my small amounts of free time grinding without any review or improvement. The actual goal here is to become more comfortable playing standard tables and then make a more informed decision about which to play.

4) Timetable - I will have to strictly timetable my revision next month, and each day I plan on devoting 90-120 minutes to poker, depending on how long it takes me to get my work done. How the time will be divided exactly I don't know yet, but poker will be a part of it, and the elements of poker I want to work on will be timetabled too. 

5) More regular blog posting - With me going back through hand histories, I will select the most interesting hands and write about them more regularly. Depending on timetabling, I will either aim to post a hand history with review either every day or every other day. The main reason I do this is because it forces me to be correct - I really don't like the idea of publicly stating an incorrect opinion (although I'm sure I do it constantly!) so I go into a lot of detail with the hand and make sure I've looked at it from every angle and used PJ to its full potential with it. I'll save the most difficult and interesting spots for this.

6) PokerJuice - there are two main PJ goals I have. The first one being to completely understand everything it does, as right now I'd say I am fluent at using 70% of the features. PJ is just so amazingly invaluable to the modern day PLO player I'd be putting myself at a disadvantage to not use everything it offers. The other goal is to use their forums more - never in my life have I spoken to such a helpful, friendly and patient group as the people who comment on hand histories in the PJ Club on Most importantly, most of them seem to be (in my experience) coaches so they articulate their points very well, and don't just tell you an answer, they explain why and allow you to take the information on board into your own game. There is absolutely no reason as to why I wouldn't go here as my first port of call if I can't solve a problem myself. I will be writing a more extensive review at the end of the month of PJ once I am 100% unconsciously competent using all of the features. 

7) Don't go broke.

So, to summarise, the large broad goal this month is to spend more time learning the game whilst not gambling. There is so much information and software at my disposal it feels a bit stupid to play another hand without processing all of it. 

That's it from me today. I'm going away again in a few days so I may not reappear for a while. Once I do I'll be posting regular hand history reviews.

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

[Poker] March 2016 Review

March 2016, in terms of personal satisfaction, was probably the worst poker month I've had, definitely in my PLO time. There are several reasons for this, the main one disappointly being the most obvious - I just haven't played all that well. Below is my graph for March 2016, playing about 9000 hands of PLO2 Zoom, and about 1000 of PLO2.
There are a few reasons I think I underperformed so much this month. The first one being that I went back home to Liverpool for about a week, which killed my rhythm as I had a lot less time to play. The second being that I was trying to adapt to playing twice the amount of hands I was previously, which gave me half the thinking time I had previously, and I ended up losing a lot of money making elaborate bluffs that didn't really make sense, and I usually realise quite quickly in post review that they didn't make sense. I could use the bad variance as a factor for doing so poorly, but my EV graph isn't exactly good either, so I don't think thats valid. Going through the goals individually (which were discussed in the earlier post, Goals for March 2016);

1) I did not make profit this month. Rakeback softened the blow so I didn't lose quite as much as the graph suggests, but the goal was profit and I didn't achieve that. However, I disagree that profit should be a goal here in hindsight, +EV should be the goal, but I failed that too. 

2) This is a more interesting one. Again, I failed in making profit, however I definitely feel I adapted towards the end to playing two tables. At about 4k hands I felt very comfortable with it. However, I went on a bit of a downswing and I don't think I ever completely recovered from it in terms of my mental game, and my decision making speed suffered, and I began to almost unadapt. 

3) I half succeeded with this, in the sense I've read half of both. I may have been slightly optimistic with me reading two books, playing regularly, going and spending time with family and also doing all of my university work, of which there's a huge amount at the moment as I come up to exam period.

4) I feel this was successful, I'm now quite comfortable with both PJ and PT, and both are utterly fantastic. I remember when reading about PT I saw people saying the HUD was the least valuable part of it, which I found strange because it was the primary reason I bought it. I now 100% agree with this statement, it is fantastic software for post session review. PokerJuice I can see being the best investment I've ever made. I'll talk more about these in another post.

5) Funnily enough, I actually did this, which is quite ironic considering its the one I was convinced I wouldn't do, and it ended up being one of the few I did.

6) With rakeback, I'm still fairly well rolled at about 25BI. Not ideal, but it'll do for now. 

There are some important messages I need to take from this month, the main one being that playing sporadically whenever I have time is not profitable for me. I need a schedule to follow, with both time for play and review. I need to strictly timetable my playing, or I won't succeed. I also need to devote more time to review than I currently am, as the past couple of weeks I've hardly had any poker time and it was review that lost out, I just really wanted to play. I need to plan for lost time and reduce both evenly as oppose to just fucking off my review time and grinding. 

Okay, so that's the negative bit done. I have two more posts to write today, both of which should be really positive and optimistic.

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

[Poker] Hand #2 - Mistakes with Aces

The more time I spend reviewing hands, ranging opponents, looking at equities and implied odds etc etc, the more I realise one thing - bad folds are just as costly EV wise as bad calls. To a seasoned poker veteran this seems like a very obvious concept, and is one I was certainly accepting of, but until properly intense review using PokerJuice I didn't realise just quite how costly it can be. The hand I want to discuss today is a spot where I made some very -EV plays, which at the time multitabling making snap decisions seemed quite standard, but upon review it was a costly mistake. 
Note: I've decided all hand reviews I do from this point onwards will be displayed in big blinds. This is more for my own personal benefit than anything as I need to get into the habit of thinking in big blinds. 
We have double suited aces in the small blind. A player who is playing a 25/18 raises UTG. My only reads on the player so far are that he plays very aggressively when he has the betting lead, apart from that he seems to be a very standard player. I elected to 3bet here, which is about the only decision I made in this hand that I actually like - it serves well to both get as much money in with our powerful hand as possible, and also reduces the SPR, which reduces our positional disadvantage. However, it does come with the drawback of playing bloated pots out of position on scary board textures, which we will see, as he elects to call. 

The flop is interesting. We have the nut flush draw, but the board is already paired in a way that I thought hits his range very very hard. I decided to bet small here, just over 1/3 of the pot, to try and bluff massive value. This is the first decision I don't like, because in doing this I'm pricing him in to call with wraps, a ten, or a complete float looking to bluff the turn. This small bet actually achieves the opposite of what I wanted by keeping his range very wide, as a larger bet wouldn't be called by a float, and a wrap would probably give up too. I would've preferred in hindsight to go about 14 or 15 on this flop, or even check call, which probably represents more strength than a small bet. He calls the small bet and I shudder. 

The turn is a horrid card for me, as it double pairs the board. In my mind at the time, he has to have either a ten or a king here when we consider his preflop range and his flop action. I was content to check-fold this flop, which I don't think is horrible to a large pot committing bet. However, when I checked, he bet less than 1/4 of the pot. I decided this was a bet designed to make me call with my probably quite obvious aces, so I folded. This is a very bad fold for one main reason - it is very unlikely he has a boat or better here. He needs specifically KT (or quads) to have me beat, and there are only four combinations of that left in the deck, so it drastically reduces the odds he has it. Yes he has trips an awful lot of the time, but my pot odds are 5.2:1 against a range I almost certainly have good equity against with my flush draw and 2 outer for a boat. Once I posted this hands on the forums of the lovely people of PokerJuice, Nikolaj calculated, using the PJ RD module, that using a range of trips or better on the turn, he only has a boat 22.29% of the time, and his range is often much wider than that. Check-calling the turn is almost certainly a better play, as I have outs which I'm being laid good odds to hit, and there's a good chance he gives up on the river with any bluffs and I can take it down. 

Pretty small post today because I only really had one message with it - missing out on EV comes in both calling too light and folding too tight. I've been back home on an impromptu visit this week so I've hardly played at all, which was enjoyable but I'm looking forward to getting back to it. Monthly review coming soon (be prepared for a super negative post with that one). I'm also going to write a review of the softwares I've been using, namely PT and PJ (be prepared for a super positive post with that one). 

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

Saturday, 5 March 2016

[Poker] Hand #1 - 673BB Pot

I feel like I'm starting to understand what people mean when they say PLO is swingy. I have some serious issues with the way I played this hand, and I'll discuss them at the end.

(Note: I removed HUD stats from the screenshots, this is because I had less than 10 hands on every player and got nothing from the information, so I just felt it was screen clutter)


I'm UTG with double suited kings. I opened for pot (I feel this is fairly standard). I figured this being PLO I'd see some action, but didn't anticipate quite this much. 

We got 3 callers in position on us and then the small blind repots it. OOP, this much aggression into a raise and 3 calls to me just absolutely screams aces - any other premium drawing hand doesn't make sense, as bloating the pot OOP without a made hand potentially against 5 players is an SPR disaster in my opinion. I suppose he could have premium kings but I block that, so I think we can safely say he has aces, probably good ones (again, no real reads on the player, no idea if he's flatting or potting weak aces in this spot). BB folds, back to me. I'm dominated, but I have position, and I have double suited kings, and the chances are I'm going to see more action behind me so I have excellent implied odds, especially as aces have to play it OOP and I estimate he won't have much more than a pot size bet left behind, so it's going in and then I can make the decision. We see 3 more calls.

The flop comes KT5 rainbow, which is just about the best flop I could've hoped for. As predicted, the small blind lead out for about 80% of pot, which to me just enforces the idea he has aces (not that I care much anymore!) as if he'd hit this board in any real way he'd most likely be looking to check-shove to maximise value and not scare away action. Here I elect to just flat call, absolutely terrified of scaring away any action. 

This is where it really gets weird. The guy on my left shoves, and the button flat calls. The shove confuses me, as what could he possibly have that he's so desperate to get the chips in with? I conclude a big wrap or a lower set, maybe a two pair looking to crack aces. I have good equity against that. Then the button just flat calls, as if he's begging me to shove. What could he have? I have no idea, he's representing the hand I have. I conclude also just a set or a big nut wrap. The small blind shoves the remainder of his stack and I flat call. To be honest, this was just a misclick and I leave myself with about $0.30 behind and shove it on the turn and obviously get called. So we go to showdown on the turn, 4 ways; 

I decided to go to the showdown on the flop, as it was going all in on the turn regardless of the card that came out, and the equities are a bit more relevant here. I was right about the small blind, he had strong aces, however he also had a gutterball and a backdoor flush draw. The one who shoved on my left has two pair, which I suppose makes sense as my flat sort of represents a draw or a hand I want to see a turn with and he has aces cracked so there's a good chance he has the best hand. The button has fuck all, a bare gutshot to a non-nut straight and a wrap draw, if that's even a thing. This call is just utterly atrocious, even if he is getting quite good odds he still needs to be good about 25% of the time as he's getting 2.95:1, and is a non-nut gutshot ever 25% here? No. So as is, I need to dodge a queen which I block, or one of the two remaining aces, one of which is held. Luckily I do hold to scoop a massive pot, which brought me right back into the green for the morning.

I have some serious issues with my preflop decision and really cannot decide if calling was right. In my head, I was looking for either a flush draw or a king to shove multiway and give myself good pot odds, but both of my flush draws were dominated. Especially considering how there was a lot of action preflop, people were representing strong hands, a lot of which naturally have kings in them, so I feel a lot of the time I'm drawing nearly dead preflop. Yes I won a huge pot, but this happens almost never in this spot, as I knew I was dominated and that was the best case. I had assumed I'd see more action behind me after I called pre but most of the time am I getting the right odds even then? I decided to ask PokerJuice. 

For Preflop ranges, I gave the small blind AAxx and 2% 3bet OOP, and the other 3 I gave them 12% FI range and excluded 6% 3betIP, as we would've heard about those when I originally raised. I pretty much guessed the ranges as I know nothing about the players, but I'm also completely new to PJ - I'd love to hear what the general rules are for guessing opponent ranges. According to this, I take it down 20%, which for me is an okay call pre, considering the implied odds of having more callers behind me and the almost certain big bet from the small blind on almost any flop. It also suggests to me I was probably unlucky to be dominated in both flush draws, and it's not actually that much of a disaster here due to the low SPR - if I'd hit a good flush draw and been dominated when 500BB deep I imagine I'd have to consider the possibility of someone having the nut draw when the table shows this much aggression, but for my flop odds I don't think its terrible. 
Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to really delve into this and make sure I played it okay, to be honest I'm still not positive I did, but I have arguments as to why I think its fine and explanations for each step and I think that's more important than anything in terms of improving. I'd absolutely love some feedback if anyone has any, especially about PJ ranging - I'm a bit clueless. 

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

Friday, 4 March 2016

[Poker] Realisations

Hey guys, quick update. I've played/ran really quite badly over the past few days, and decided to change the way I'm approaching this a bit and prioritise some goals over others. I put the actual poker on the back-burner for a bit and decided to spend a while doing an extensive database review of myself and reading a lot. I learned a few things very quickly;

The Mental Game of Poker is a must - I started reading it this morning after it finally arrived. I got about halfway through it without averting my gaze; it was the most productive poker morning I've most likely ever had. I learned so much about my game, it made me realise a lot of my preconceptions about mental game and emotion were complete bullshit, and that I very seriously needed to re-think how I learn the game. It also made it clear to me I'm overconfident - learning a game as complex as PLO through raw trial and error and reading the scarce available literature is going to lose me a lot of money very quickly. This leads me to my second point;
I'm going to hire a coach - My main issue at the moment is that I struggle to identify my own leaks (I am consciously incompetent in leak finding some might say, cheers Jared) and I think hiring a coach to teach me how to find them would be hugely beneficial in the long run. I'm not decided on who yet, but I do have a name in mind. If anyone has any suggestions feel free to let me know @SeacombePLO or in a comment, I'm looking for someone I can have weekly sessions with over the next year or so and consistently review my game and keep me on the right track.
I found a massive leak - I was exploring the properties of PT4 and found that you could organise your hand database by position. What I saw shocked me.
It's definitely notable to say this is only VPIP hands - this is not including the blinds I've just folded. I think its probably fair to say I'm playing incorrectly out of the blinds, specifically the small blind. Firstly, I'm playing more hands from the small blind than I am the button. With position being everything in PLO, this is just so stupid, as I'm effectively widening my range the worse my situation is. Delving further, I found a lot of these losses were huge pots that I'd either run into the nuts with a second or third nuts type of hand, or I'd blown off huge amounts with elaborate bluffs. I'm actually winning 55% of my VPIP hands from the small blind which is why I'm probably so aggressive, generally I'm winning so it feels profitable, however the times I do lose it ends up being such huge pots that it really isn't correct at all. Observation from this; tighten up from the blinds, don't go crazy OOP. Apart from that I don't think my stats are too crazy, I could maybe do with playing a bit more aggressively from the cutoff but I don't think the other profit numbers can be taken as gospel given the small sample size.
PokerJuice is phenomenal - I spent a few hours the other day really trying to get to grips with everything it can do and I have to say, I spent £215 on the yearly subscription, and it is worth every penny and more. I spent hours just plugging in random hands against random ranges on random flops and I got such a massive insight into PLO equities, which can be very deceptive. I spent about an hour just focused on all AAxx scenarios and I think my game is going to be a lot more solid with this information about how to play with and against them. 

I felt a lot better about being able to approach the game positively tonight than I have done so far this month so decided to sit down on 2 PLO2Z tables. I made a very modest profit of $0.65 over 244 hands. It would've been a lot higher but I got sucked out on in a large pot, which is fine, it happens. I feel like if that'd happened yesterday I would've been bouncing off the walls but I genuinely think TMGOP is already helping me. To be honest, I stopped the session early because I was very keen on turning any form of profit for the session - got a bit sick of seeing red on my PT. I realise writing this that stopping to risk any profit for no reason other than fear of losing it is a very negative approach to the game, but I managed to turn a profit, find a huge leak, made massive mental game progress, not blow up when losing to a 4 outer and finally feel comfortable with two tables. I'm recording today as a massive win for me.

Hopefully see you next time! I'm off to review my last session.


Saturday, 27 February 2016

[Poker] Goals for March 2016


I plan on doing two posts at the start of each month, one to discuss how I did in the previous month, and one to discuss my goals for the next. Considering I haven't properly kept track of how I did this month enough to discuss it, and I didn't have any set goals defined, I thought it was best to start with March and work from there. 

I currently have a $60 roll, which I worked over the past month from about $20. I doubt I'll have very much time to play over the next few days, so March will start with the $60 figure.

Goal Number One

I want to take the $60 roll to a minimum of $80 come the end of March, through direct poker winnings. I am not counting rakeback in this, as I will probably reach 1000 starcoins a few days into March - so the goal is +$20 in PokerTracker for the month. It isn't a lot, but it's a start, and it is going to be made much more difficult in completion of the other goals, which by far take priority. If I had to fail at one goal this month, I'd choose this one.

Goal Number Two

I am a firm believer in building a base to work from before going upwards. I do not see the point in rising up stakes as fast as I can without building myself a key set of skills to use as I climb. One of these skills I want to build is multi-tabling. Currently, I have only played PLO2 Zoom. I would ideally like to play normal tables but I have a laptop with a small screen and low res and it gets awkward once I go past 4. I want to practice playing a high volume, I want to be able to make important decisions quickly. I want to be able to maximise my rakeback and do everything I can to combat the variance by pumping up the volume of hands. I will use my time at the micro stakes to develop these skills. Goal number two is to play a profitable month in March, consistently playing two tables of PLO2 Zoom, playing at least 30 hours.

Goal Number Three

I am going to add a lot more independent study to poker. With my recent purchase of PokerJuice, the lovely people over there gave me a free copy of PLOQuickPro, despite the promotion having already ended. I'm going to take advantage of this fantastic customer service by making sure I read PLOQuickPro cover to cover over the month of March. I've already started and I've already learned a fair bit. I have also ordered both versions of The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler. I feel that tilt is not a major problem for me, I am generally quite level headed, but it definitely happens sometimes and my profits suffer when it does. I want to deal with this as soon as possible because in a game as swingy as PLO if I cannot have complete control of my emotions, I have no chance at all.

Goal Number Four

I want to start to utilise software more. I've had PT for a month or so now and absolutely love it but I feel like I'm only scratching the surface of what it can do for my game. This has been added to with me buying PokerJuice, I know its fantastic software but quite frankly I have no real idea how to use it to its full potential. I will spend time devoted to learning the ins and outs of these softwares and schedule more regular sessions of review using them (I usually just review whenever I feel like, I think more structure is needed than that). I am thinking I should do a review of the previous session I played directly before I play the next, so it sort of works as a warm up as well as a review.

Goal Number Five

Start eating healthier. Actually go the gym I am paying for which is literally a 5 second walk from my flat. The usual shit. 

Goal Number Six

Don't go broke. 


Yes, I know the numbers are small. I will never make a living playing PLO2 and aiming for $20 a month is so tiny it almost seems pointless, but I really want to stress groundwork here. The main goals for this month are improving my volume capability, improving my theoretical side of poker, improving my use of software and improving my mental game. I do not want to rush my way up the stakes and burn out. At this point, profits are not the major priority. 
In terms of BRM, for now I'm just going to stick with PLO2, until I'm playing 4 tables of Zoom and feel comfortable with it. From then on, I'll adopt the 50+10 scheme described in PLO from Scratch. For those who haven't read it, it says to move up stakes, I need 50BI for the stake I'm currently playing and 10BI for the one above, so to move from PLO2 to PLO5 I will need 50($2)+10($5)=$150. I then get to play PLO5 until I go back to 50BI for PLO2 then I switch back, or until I reach the requirement for PLO10, which is 50($5)+10($10)=$350. Until I become more comfortable with judging it myself, I'll stick to this.
I won't just be focused on using BRM to control my up and down in stakes. Every time I make a major adjustment into my game (adding another table, moving up stakes, going from Zoom to regular cash if  I end up buying a proper PC) I want to make sure I am profitable for at least a month with it so I can adapt. I feel it would be easy to go on a major upswing in PLO5 and end up playing PLO10 in a PLO2 mindset. I'll take my time.
So, that's about it. In terms of what else I'll write this month it'll most likely be my takes on the full capabilities of the softwares, the books I plan on reading, anything interesting I discover about PLO in the process, and then at the end of the month I'll outline if I succeeded at these goals, if I didn't why not, and outline my goals for April 2016. I'll try and include some more interesting stuff too, I can't imagine it being super exciting me talking about my poker statistics playing micro stakes. 
There's also one more really important thing. I imagine a lot of the people reading this will be into PLO, so you'll probably be better than me. Please, scrutinise everything I'm doing. If you find a flaw, let me know in a comment, or tweet me @SeacombePLO. The primary reason I am writing this is so I can improve.  

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe

Friday, 26 February 2016

[Intro] The Beginning

The Reason

Why couldn't I sleep? I lay in my university halls bed, next to my girlfriend, thinking about how on paper, my life is perfect. I'm at a top class university studying mathematics, I found a good woman, I have a loving family and was financially comfortable. All I had to do on a day to day basis was study for my degree and follow in the footsteps of academic success in my family. Why was I so bloody miserable? Surely, I'm beyond fortunate to be in the position I'm in. Am I the most ungrateful little shit the world has ever seen?

Depression is something I've battled with for as long as I can remember. It's always felt like a part of me, a sadist companion who shows up to get the final punch in to knock me down when I'm struggling to stay up. It has always had its peaks and troughs, and to be truthful I've experienced it so much over the past 5 years or so at times I forget it’s not normality. However I've learned to deal with it, but more importantly I think, I've learned to understand why it is happening and how to combat it. For me at least, it isn't random, something triggers it. All I had to do now was work out what exactly in this perfect life was so negative it was triggering mental illness.

It wasn't that night I figured it out, it was the next morning, about a week ago from when I'm writing this. I'd gotten maybe 3 hours of sleep as I dragged myself out of bed to a Multivariable Calculus lecture, walking through the campus full of wondrous buildings that made me feel nothing and the hundreds of faces who all had the same dull expression of unmotivated, unrested academic pain. I sat in the dim, packed hall, and listened to the droaning sound of someone explaining something to me I couldn't give less of a shit about. It hit me at that moment - is this what I want to do with the rest of my life? I looked around at the sea of students, some diligently taking notes, some (most) browsing Twitter or Facebook on their phones, a healthy portion taking a nap. The answer to my question was a resounding no. It hit me hard - I am wasting my life learning about things I don't care about in order to get a job I inevitably won't care about. I was sentencing myself to a life of boredom and self-loathing. Bingo. Reason found.

But then again, maybe I'm just depressed. Maybe I do love maths and I just don't know how to appreciate it anymore. Maybe I'm a spoiled little shit who just needs to learn to be grateful. I had absolutely no idea. Was there any solution to this? Do I commit another two years of my life to this? Would I be able to motivate myself enough to not fail? Would dropping out be the one thing I talk about when I'm asked about my life's biggest regrets? I decided to follow a piece of advice I've always lived by - "If you don't know what to do in a situation, don't do anything until you absolutely know what the best course of action is". Outside of his comical ramblings and bizarre tales, occasionally my father did come out with something of use. 

About a month ago, over the Christmas break, I had discovered Pot Limit Omaha (or PLO). I'd always played poker, starting from sitting in the common room in school, using calculators to keep track of pots, to playing online with fake money, slowly transitioning to playing online with real money. I enjoyed it as a hobby, playing the classic No Limit Texas Hold'Em (the poker you are probably familiar with if you don't properly know poker), but there is so much information available, the game is so easy to learn and there are just so many options to play it that even at the micro stakes, the majority of players are very good and the games were too difficult for me to consistently turn a profit without devoting more time than I could to it. Then one night, over Christmas, I was very bored and unstimulated by the nitty full ring NLHE games on Pokerstars, that I decided to devote $2 of my precious bankroll to sit at a PLO table. I turned it into $16 in the space of about 2 hours. I absolutely loved it. It was so much more complicated, so much more fun. I thought I was the best player in the world. I thought I'd found something which was going to start to take all of my free time. One of these thoughts turned out to be true.
I blew off my studies for it and devoted hours and hours to trying to learn the game, and one thing hit me very quickly - PLO is a very different beast from NLHE. My initial profits were nothing more than just luck. I realised I had to take this a lot more seriously if I wanted to beat the variance infested, unsolved, unreliable grumpy teenager of poker that is PLO. I downloaded the free trial of PokerTracker and played and played and played. And lost and lost and lost. My losses for January 2016 were -$46.12 over 3731 hands, which may not seem like a lot, but I was playing PLO2, at a loss rate of 51.63BB/100. I redefined shite - and I have never been more determined before. I was going to master this. I changed my approach, I added in a lot more studying and hand review sessions to my poker time, I read PLO From Scratch. I watched a huge amount of PLO videos, I sat there for hours looking over the equities of my decisions and reviewing my reasoning. I forced my girlfriend to sit and listen as I talked through hands with her, which she probably didn’t give a shit about but sat through it anyway. During February 2016 I have turned my first profitable PLO month. And I still know almost nothing.

I was talking to a close friend about the way I was feeling that following evening, after the epiphany-fuelled lecture. He asked me a couple of questions which shaped the decision I made which ultimately led to me writing this. The first being "Is there anything you still love to do?" Poker. Teaching. "Is there any way you can combine both - poker and teaching?" Yes. I could be a poker coach. I felt my sadist companion edge out of the room. "Can you do this viably forever if you drop out of university right now?" No. He swaggered right back in. 

I had a meeting arranged with my personal tutor because I'd failed a few exams. So far in the 3 months of uni I'd sat 13 exams - something I personally thought was excessive - and had failed 2. While there, I gave him a rundown of how I was feeling, and he suggested I take a gap year, get a normal job for a year, sort my head out a bit, work out exactly what I want to do with my life. I've never felt so fantastic hearing him say that - A GAP YEAR! I didn't know you could do that halfway through a degree. So many more questions were raised at the prospect of this but ultimately, I knew what I wanted to do. By my father's advice, I could now do something about it.

A plan began to formulate. Ideas, excitement, hope. Get a job, gain some perspective, play poker. My sadist companion ran so far and so fast it was immediately like he’d never been there. I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt normal once again.

So, I'm a 19 year old privileged mathematics student who has decided he doesn't like his course and is dropping out of university to play poker full time after winning a bit at the micro stakes. Wise move, kid. But no, that's not what I'm doing. I am not taking a year out to play poker - I am taking a year out to work out what the fuck I want to do with my life, which at the moment seems like it’s probably poker. I'll work a job with enough hours to get me by, and devote my free time a lot more diligently to PLO. If it works out, great. I’m living my dream. If not, my place will be reserved to go back and do my second year at uni. The exact current situation I find myself in, is my backup plan. I have absolutely nothing to lose.

My Goals

Okay, so, I have my plan. Now what do I want to achieve here? I have short term goals and long term goals. 

Long Term - Become a professional PLO coach. Before this, I will obviously have to become a successful PLO player.
Short Term - Use the gap year and the remainder of this year to put myself in a position with PLO where not returning to uni is a viable option for my future. Provide enough income to allow my girlfriend to get her degree without the added stress of having to work herself part time. Work out where my life is going.

This is the short version. There are millions of other short term goals I've set myself, and these will be discussed in future entries. I’d also like to add that just because giving myself the option to not return to uni is a goal, it doesn’t mean that I’ll be taking it. I think there is a very real chance I’ll miss the degree and want to go back even if I am successful.

Why do you give a shit?

The majority of the future of this blog will be about poker. I will discuss my goals, winnings, losses, methods, conclusions, what I'm doing to study, if it's working or not, where it's going. My main reasons for writing this blog are that I can read it back myself and see how far I've come, and that hopefully people can learn from both my successes and mistakes on the way. Every now and then I’ll do entries like this, because I firmly believe that there is a message to what I’m writing – there are always alternatives and they aren’t always ultimatums. Hopefully I’ll succeed, if I don’t, whatever. I took a year out to explore what having a normal job is like, gained a bit of perspective and got the added experience of a more independent life than I’ve experienced thus far. I’m massively optimistic about this. Hopefully it ends up vaguely interesting.

What’s next?

So, here I am. For the next few months I’ll be making sure I do well enough in my exams that they let me back in, but poker will leave “hobby time” and go to “work time”. Armed with PokerTracker, PokerJuice, PLOQuickPro, a $60 bankroll, a crappy laptop and an absolute shit tonne of determination, I’ll do my damn hardest to make poker work – and I’ll document my experience. I’ll also write other stuff. I’ll pretty much do whatever I feel like doing.

Hopefully see you next time! The next one will be a bit more focused on the poker.  Seacombe